Wounded victims of death or crime can find a gentle guide and listening ear with Myrna Arnold, RCMP Victim’s Services Coordinator and Executive Director for Houston Community Services.
Arnold says she works with people from all walks of life, teens to seniors, who have suffered trauma, from assault to family disputes to a sudden death.
She calls and checks in on clients, and is on call and available to them 24/7, mostly to listen and talk things through but also a resource if they have questions, she said, adding that she doesn’t hesitate to refer them to other services, like Domestic Peace, Mental Health or church ministers.
Arnold keeps victims updated about court hearings, what is happening to their perpetrator and when they need to appear in court, she said.
She also goes with the RCMP if they have to announce a sudden death, to be a support if the family needs it, she said.
“It gets pretty tough sometimes,” said Arnold, adding that because of the small community the number of files goes up and down from 15 to 30 files month by month, and it usually balances out fairly well.
There are times when she needs to take a break, not talk to anyone and just clear her head, she said.
For those times, Arnold has two volunteers who help with her work: Houston Secondary School teacher Paul Batley and Community Services Administrator Marianne Dekker.
Arnold says she sometimes asks Batley to take files of youth at the high school and check in on them off and on, and sometimes if something bigger happens, all three of them are needed to give support to the victims.
Arnold has been the executive director for community services for 26 years, and volunteered with victims services for five years before taking on the job ten years ago, she said.
She says she has learned a lot, taken some psychology and sociology courses, and has drawn on knowledge gained from 33 years of teaching in an elementary school in Nova Scotia, where she grew up.
“It’s a learning experience all the time – you never stop learning,” Arnold said.
“You work with so many different types of people and with almost the same incidents, but every incident, although it is classified as being the same, is always different because of the the people you work with… every person is different,” she said.
Besides working with Houston people, Arnold has also worked with Granisle and Topley people for about four years – starting when they merged the Granisle and Houston RCMP and ending when program funding was cut – and she loved it.
“You have to love it, and you have to love people,” she said.
Arnold says that she is retiring on July 31 this year and she needs a replacement.
“I hate to give it up, I really do, but I have to retire for a little while before I die,” Myrna said, laughing.
Arnold says she would recommend the job to anyone, anyone who likes working with people, who has an open mind and doesn’t judge one way or the other, and most of all has empathy – you couldn’t do it without that, she said.